Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity. Lord Acton
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
$2 million Congressman
How much can your congressman levy for a bribe?
The courts or lawyers at least, are incredibly coy about revealing the dollar value of political bribes. Of course not all bribes are straight cash; gifts, travel and other subsidies come into the difficulty equation.
The recent, celebrated case of Rep. Duke Cunningham who resigned in November after pleading guilty to corruption charges, sheds a bit of light on the issue. CNN.com reported that Cunningham received more than $2 million in bribes. A government statement said Cunningham received at least $2.4 million in bribes “and will forfeit his $2.5 million mansion and about $1.8 million in cash, antiques, furnishings and other valuables.”
In a fresh case, a Louisiana congressman demanded bribes in exchange for his help in promoting a pair of business deals in Africa, according to court documents filed. That allegation surfaced with a guilty plea by one of the congressman's former staffers. Brett Pfeffer, 37, a former legislative director to Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bribery of a public official and conspiracy.
According to Pfeffer the congressmen demanded 5% to 7% of the newly formed African companies in exchange for his help promoting the $45 million deal to African government officials and others. He wanted a member of his family put on the payroll, receiving between $2,500 and $5,000 a month.
Add to these publicized episodes the general, run of the mill election donations, part of which seems to find their way into politicians pockets. Senators McCain, Feingold, and Cochran have their way this could increase substantially, with individual contribution ceilings rising from $5,000 to $10,000, raising limits to $30,000.
That would seem to rate your average or garden variety congressman at around the $2 million mark. We can expect to see some kind of definitive figure soon for the more influential lawmakers. Perhaps, with Abramoff and Co spilling their collective guts we might really start to see some amazing ‘individual’ figures.